I'm already clamouring for glamour to celebrate the golden age of ocean travel at the V&A’s major new exhibition Ocean Liners: Speed & Style which opens on February 3, 2018.
The V&A in London and the Peabody Essex Museum in Massachusetts have partnered to create the first exhibition to explore the design and cultural impact of the ocean liner on an international scale.
More than 250 objects will be on display from paintings and sculpture to ship models, alongside furniture, fashion, photos, posters and film. Highlights will include an interior panel from the Smoking Room of the French liner, Normandie, created by Art Deco lacquer artist Jean Dunand, and Stanley Spencer’s painting The Riveters from the 1941 series Shipbuilding on the Clyde.
The Duke of Windsor’s 1940s Goyard luggage will also feature, on display in Europe for the first time since leaving the Windsor Estate.
The exhibition, sponsored by Viking Cruises, will also feature ground-breaking works by Modernist artists, designers and architects inspired by liners, including Le Corbusier, Albert Gleizes, Charles Demuth and Eileen Gray.
Visitors will also be able to view a Cartier tiara recovered from the sinking Lusitania in 1915, as well as a panel fragment from the Titanic’s first class lounge, returning to the UK for the first time since its doomed maiden voyage in 1912.
Beginning with Brunel’s steamship, the Great Eastern of 1859, the exhibition will trace the design stories behind some of the world’s most luxurious liners, from the Beaux-Arts interiors of Kronprinz Wilhelm, Titanic and its sister ship, Olympic, to the floating Art Deco palaces of Queen Mary and Normandie, and the streamlined Modernism of SS United States and QE2.
The exhibition will also throw light on the famous passengers and the great couturiers who looked to ocean travel to promote their designs. On display will be the Christian Dior suit worn by Marlene Dietrich as she arrived in New York aboard the Queen Mary in 1950, and a Lucien Lelong couture gown worn for the maiden voyage of Normandie in 1935.
The exhibition will also showcase one of the most important flapper dresses in the V&A’s collection – Jeanne Lanvin’s ‘Salambo’ dress – a version of which was displayed at the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes in Paris in 1925. The dress belonged to Emilie Grigsby, a renowned wealthy American beauty, who regularly travelled between the UK and New York aboard the Aquitania, Olympic and Lusitania throughout the 1910s and 1920s.
Ghislaine Wood, exhibition curator, said: “The great age of ocean liners has long passed but no form of transport has been so romantic or so remarkable. Three years in the making, this exhibition will show how liners have shaped the modern world in many ways.”
Tristram Hunt, Director of the V&A, said: “This seminal show will reveal hidden design stories of some of the world’s most luxurious liners, from the Titanic to the Normandie and QE2. We have collected ship-related objects and ephemera for well over 100 years, and now have a startlingly brilliant collection of ocean liner material, making us uniquely placed to present this exhibition. I’d like to thank our sponsors, Viking Cruises, for their generous support in helping us stage this ambitious show.”
Torstein Hagen, Chairman of Viking Cruises, said: “A Viking journey is all about exploration and discovery, and we are committed to providing culturally enriching experiences to our guests, both on board our ships and on shore.
“We are pleased to work with the world’s leading museum of art and design and performance, and to partner on this exciting exhibition celebrating ocean travel, past and present.”
- Ocean Liners: Speed & Style runs from February 3 - 10 June 2018 at the V&A London in Room 39 and the North Court. Tickets now available. Admission £18 (concessions available). V&A Members go free. Advance booking is advised at the V&A; online at vam.ac.uk/oceanliners or by calling 0800 912 6961 (booking fee applies).